Three Ingredient Pumpkin Cream Cheese Mini Muffins

I do my best to make something homemade for the college students in our Sunday school every Sunday. I don’t always have much time or money to do something fabulously creative, or to do anything but pick up donuts on our way to church, but every once in a while, I find a recipe everyone seems to enjoy. Today’s Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins were amazing!

I had seen a recipe similar to this somewhere, and loved its simplicity. The recipe was for full-sized muffins, but we all know that mini-muffins are much better than full-sized muffins!

The recipe is as simple as it is good:




Pumpkin Cream Cheese Mini Muffins

  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 1 15 oz can pumpkin
  • 1 can cream cheese frosting (or you can make your own!)
  • Okay, okay, I added 1/2 tsp of cinnamon and nutmeg, so technically it was 5 ingredients, but you don’t have to add these, so they don’t really count, right?

Mix pumpkin with spices and then with cake mix. Mixture will be very thick. So thick that you’re going to want to add something to thin it out. Don’t. Resist the temptation.

Line mini muffin pan with muffin papers, or spray pan with nonstick spray. Drop teaspoon-sized amounts in each paper. This is where the Pampered Chef Small Scoop comes in handy. It’s the perfect size for mini-muffins.

Bake at 350 for 11-13 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Cool completely. Frost with a small dollop of cream cheese ice cream. Again, you’ll be tempted to use more. Don’t. Less is more.

Makes 5 dozen.

That’s right. 5 DOZEN. And the 15 people in Sunday school ate them all! Even those who didn’t like pumpkin liked these. 

I feel that it’s only fair to caution you that they are powerfully addictive!


Today Mattered

A little over three years ago, when I came to our University, I asked the question, “What would it look like if Jesus were a professor in my program? What would be important to Him?”

Of course, the answer comes in many different forms, but in answering that question, my heart has been captured by a group of people I tend to think that Jesus cares a lot about. One hundred seventy residents  live just a block from our campus in a renovated hotel property, and are a group of mostly formerly homeless residents trying to get back on their feet.

This is the beginning of my fourth year accompanying my students down to their property to share health-related workshops. Twice a year we help host a health fair. Today was one of our health fair days.

There’s nothing miraculous about what we do — take blood pressure, counsel on health concerns, walk blind and illiterate residents around to various stations, chat about life. We always end in a workshop. Today’s was on “Feeling Full on Food Stamps,” helping residents to understand the foods that will fill them up nutritiously for the least price per pound.

Over the years, I feel like I’ve learned just as much about people and poverty as they have learned about healthy living. Maybe more.

Studies on poverty confirm what I have learned from these residents. Poverty is not merely economic, but relational. People in poverty describe their state not as a lack of money, but as feeling a lack of respect, a lack of input, and not mattering to anyone. Hopelessness. Futility.

That’s why you can’t just pour money into impoverished areas and expect them to improve. It’s not about money. It’s about mattering.

More important than blood pressure numbers, grocery store prices, and advice on losing weight, we had the opportunity for a few hours today to let our neighbors know that they matter. With every genuine smile, every name remembered, every warm handshake, every shared laugh, we were gently helping each resident out of poverty.

Today mattered.

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When the Least of These is Most of These

A Guest Post by Ken (a.k.a. “the Robot”)

I love working with college students. They are enthusiastic, hardworking and deeply spiritual, but they don’t always follow directions so well.

We were volunteering at the Rescue Mission a few weeks ago and I had to give some of the new volunteers some instruction. The Rescue Mission is a large facility that provides food and shelter for hundreds of homeless men each and every day. The Mission never takes a day off. Never takes a meal off. Not one. 365 days a year. But with that demand comes pressure. Pressure to be efficient and consistent. It’s imperative that volunteers understand their role and learn their responsibilities quickly. No one wants to be the one who holds up the line and keeps hundreds of hungry men waiting for their meal.

This particular night we had a number of new volunteers that I needed to get up to speed. I explained how we would be responsible for wiping down the tables and returning trays to the kitchen after the guests were finished with their meal. It was fairly straight forward and I had explained the process to numerous students before. So despite several uneasy faces, I felt confident that the team would follow instructions and we would have a smooth evening.

Boy, was I mistaken.

Almost immediately, the plan fell by the wayside. Before I knew what was happening, my well prepped students were wandering off on their own. They weren’t wiping down tables. They weren’t returning trays. Instead, they helped themselves to  the tables and chairs.

They just sat down and started striking up conversations. Not with each other, but with the homeless men who had come in for the evening meal.

“Hi there.”

“What’s your name?”

“How was your day?”

I had never seen this before. They weren’t busy doing anything. They were just… being hospitable. They were striking up meaningful conversation with total strangers. And strangers who were different from them in so many ways. Yet they found common ground.

The students who had never been to the Rescue Mission before were able to make these homeless men feel right at… home.

I wasn’t sure what to do. It kinda reminded me of the story of Mary and Martha when Jesus came to visit. I was acting like Martha, the mean sister. Not only were these students playing the part of Mary who realized what was really important, but they also recognized who was playing the part of Jesus in this meal.

Those college students may not have been following my instructions that night, but clearly the message of Jesus had gotten through to them. They understood Jesus when he said “‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” They realized that he was talking about a night just like this one. And they wanted Jesus to feel right at home.

Fallfest Snack Mix

Fall has arrived early in middle Tennessee. Temperatures have dropped into the 70s during the days, and the semester is well underway. I know the college students in our ministry are hard at work on projects and papers, so I crafted a little fall-inspired snack mix for their late night sweet-and-salty snack cravings. I made a ginormous batch, but to bring it down to mere mortal proportions, here’s what I used:

Fallfest Snack Mix

  • 3 C Reese’s Puffs cereal
  • 2 C candy corn
  • 2 C mellow-creme pumpkins
  • 2 C Ritz pretzel rounds
  • 1 1/2 C Cheez-Its
  • 1 1/2 C Pepper Jack Cheez-Its
  • 1 C chocolate chunks
  • 1 C dried pineapple chunks
  • 1/2 C dried cherries

Mix together, and store in air tight container. Ratio of ingredients does not really matter, as long as there’s a good mix of sweet, salty, chewy, and crunchy. I packaged it up in treat bags to give out in Sunday school tomorrow. . . . and of course I kept some back for us to try. You know, for “quality control” purposes. 😉

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The Unexpected Benefit of Friendship

Tonight we had another great night at Chick Fil A. We celebrated Ken’s birthday with cupcakes and chicken — what more could one ask for? It has been great to be surrounded by so many friends, and many of our students. We are humbled by how many people have shown up to Get Chikin’ for Adoptin’!

As the night was winding down, I found myself at a table with a former PA student and a current PA student with her husband. We each had previous careers prior to embarking on physician assistant studies, and had considered other career paths. In particular, I had been accepted to a PhD program in Physiology, but had chosen to go to Physician Assistant school instead. After practicing for several years as a PA, I then returned to the classroom to teach, while still practicing as much as I can.

Of course over time, there have been days when I’ve wondered if I made the right decision. I took a fairly enormous paycut to teach, and I work nearly double the hours many weeks. But at the same time, I feel called to where I’m at. I know that I’m making a difference in the lives of students, and I enjoy what I do — most days.

But as I’ve sat at Chick Fil A for the last few weeks, I’ve enjoyed the company of former students and as I’ve had the chance to catch up with them, I can’t help but be thankful for an unexpected benefit of friendship.

To be friends with my students while they are in school would be inappropriate. After all, I am the professor, and they are the student. And as much as I like them, it is not a peer relationship, and I’m careful to guard against that.  All the while, however, I come to know their personalities, their hearts and their callings. We laugh together — and cry together. We agonize over difficult decisions, and celebrate milestones. I love the day that they graduate, and I am allowed to call them friends, because they are some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. They are intelligent, compassionate, and godly. They are hard-working, yet have a sense of humor. And they are each incredibly unique.

I think the biggest unexpected benefit of being a professor of PAs, rather than being a PA only, is the relationships that are forged during, and especially the friendships that are formed after PA school is over. Our relationships now are not mandatory, but optional. And I’m so blessed that many of my former students are now my friends.

I think this PA professor job may be a pretty great thing after all.


The annual pinnacle in the life of a professor is graduation, and tonight was our program’s graduation celebration. From the joy of celebrating 27 months of hard work mastered, to sorrow at knowing this is the last time we would all be together, to laughter over the strange and warm experiences over the years, the range of emotions was extensive.

While it’s been my honor to stand in front of them to teach, I know that it is their work that has brought them to this moment of honor. Galileo is often quoted as saying, “You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him discover it in himself.” I have been privileged to have been a part of their journey of discovery about the human body, about themselves, and about God Himself.

Truthfully, my students aren’t just students to me. They’re not just another paper to grade, or questions to answer. After 116 credit hours of coursework, while sharing life under extreme circumstances, I come to know and care much more about them. I have had the blessing to be able appreciate their hearts as well, and they are vibrant reflections of Christ Himself.

This particular class of students had an unfair share of grief and sorrow during their time in our program. Too much disease, death, and disappointment weaved in and out of their lives.  But while some could have let hardship cause division and bitterness, this class bonded together to care for and cherish one another. It also led them to love and support the disadvantaged community around them, even when they themselves were busy and hurting. I believe that difficulties bring out the true nature of our character, and in them I saw a beauty reflected in their struggles. I saw the Body of Christ.

So, on these graduates will go into their practice lives. They’ll take the things that they learned in our program, pass their board exams, and begin saving lives one patient visit at a time. I pray that they’ll see Christ in each person they see, and that as they are caring for bodies, they’ll help to heal souls as well.

In fact, I know they will. Because they already have.

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